What Does the IT Department Do and What Are IT Roles?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 January 2023

Published 29 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many businesses have dedicated departments for handling their informational technology (IT) needs. This is usually because they need constant and reliable access to computer systems and the various benefits they offer. Understanding what the IT department actually does can teach you a lot about how modern businesses operate, which can be useful if you regularly work with IT professionals or even thinking of starting your own business. In this article, we explain what an IT department does and the various types of support it offers.

Related: How To Become an IT Engineer (With Practical Steps and Career Info)

What does the IT department do?

Almost all companies maintain some sort of online presence these days, but what does the IT department do? Once a company reaches a certain size, it typically becomes necessary for it to have its own IT department. Generally, the IT department of a company has three main areas of work: the company's technological systems, maintenance of its digital and technological infrastructure and ensuring that all systems function together effectively. They also commonly deal with a company's hardware and software needs, which are often used by many employees outside of the IT department.

Related: How to become an IT technician (with salaries)

The responsibilities of the IT department

To get a more in-depth understanding of the work that an IT department performs, it can be useful to break it down into distinct categories. Generally, you can conceive of IT work as falling under six interrelated areas of responsibility:

Administration

These departments typically provide IT administration support to the broader company and their own departments. This involves the maintenance and repair of the company's technological systems, advising on new solutions and helping companies instal and utilise new equipment. IT administrators have tasks that often overlap with those of their colleagues in the department, such as between system administrators and network administrators. The common duties of IT administrators include:

  • maintaining a company's computer and digital infrastructure

  • managing a company's data storage needs

  • assessing potential threats to the company's digital infrastructure

  • monitoring current contracts with clients

  • ensuring the company's compliance with quality standards

  • renewing licences and other legal documents

  • training employees in the use of new and existing systems

  • assisting with and resolving software and hardware issues

  • installing regular software updates

Related: Administrative Skills: Definition and Examples

Technical support

The technical support staff offer assistance to other members of a company who need access to the organisation's computer systems. This can involve helping to troubleshoot problems and resolving other issues regarding both software and hardware. A lot of their work relates to repairing existing systems, although their roles extend further than this a lot of the time. For instance, they are often a valuable source of information regarding the use and applications of computer systems for the wider company. Their duties typically include the following:

  • troubleshooting problems with company hardware and software

  • creating work logs

  • repairing or replacing damaged or faulty hardware

  • installing equipment for video and audio conferencing

  • installing and configuring office equipment like printers and copiers

  • processing company documentation

  • troubleshooting network and connectivity issues

  • backing up and recovering the digital assets of a company

  • helping with IT inventory assessments and management

  • researching new equipment and helping with procurement

  • installing and maintaining cloud-based services

Related: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

Communications

Many businesses rely on digital methods of communication. This can be for overcoming great distances, reducing logistical problems or to contact staff who are working remotely. This communication can be both internal and external. Meetings and interviews need to be arranged with candidates, clients and between top managers using digital technologies. Certain members of the IT department typically handle all of the arrangements necessary to make this type of communication possible. This usually includes:

  • preparing the hardware and software for video and audio conferences

  • acting as technical consultants for staff and management

  • managing the company's user accounts and login protocols

  • maintaining records and back-ups of important meetings and data sources

  • loading new data into the company's online system

  • maintaining and troubleshooting company email systems

  • setting up calls and video conferences

  • offering support to users of digital communication applications

Related: What it takes to be an IT contractor: a comprehensive list

Programming

A company's needs may extend to requiring programmers and developers. These are the specialists who create new pieces of software based on a company's needs. For a digital services provider, this could be their main product. In a company unrelated to the tech industry, this can allow them to develop solutions that are ideally suited to their own needs, rather than purchasing software packages from another business. The roles of programmers and developers in an IT department often include:

  • developing dedicated software applications for the company

  • developing and maintaining databases for the company with specific software

  • coding in languages like JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL, Python and C++

  • converting documents and other files into various formats

  • using graphic editing and data visualisation applications to copy, edit and develop graphics

  • using their knowledge to help the company develop new solutions

Related: FAQ: What Is JavaScript?

The company website

Almost every company has a dedicated website if it can afford to have one. This serves as an interface for interacting with consumers and a generator of leads and interest. Having a well-designed, comprehensive and user-friendly website can greatly increase a company's standing among consumers. It can also be a way of directly handling sales, acquiring consumer information and securing reviews and future business. A company's IT department typically handles the development and maintenance of this website. Some of their duties include:

  • configuring the layout of the company website

  • testing and improving its functionality

  • writing and implementing website code

  • working with writers and graphic designers to fill the site

  • setting up secure channels for e-commerce and subscriptions

  • ensuring the website's security

Related: 10 Essential Web Developer Skills

Application development

Some companies want to develop specific apps that increase user engagement. Alternatively, these apps could be one of the company's own products. In this case, they're going to have dedicated app developers who devise and design new apps based on client requests or consumer needs. This can include testing the app and quality assurance work. Additionally, they might also offer ongoing support to clients who've requested and purchased apps from the company. The same applies if the app was designed for use by consumers. The duties of application development staff typically include:

  • assessing the needs of consumers or clients

  • turning needs-based concepts into workable software applications

  • discussing updates and requirements with clients

  • creating code that performs specific tasks

  • developing user manuals and other means of helping users operate apps

  • carrying out troubleshooting and quality assurance for new apps

Related: 12 entry-level IT certifications

Network contingency planning

Given how important informational technology systems can be for the operation of a business, it can be harmful if the system unexpectedly crashes. This could be incredibly disruptive and potentially cost a business a lot of money. This is why the IT department typically develops contingency plans in case something like this happens. A system could stop working due to an internal error, an external problem, a power outage or disruption in the network connection. Although the IT department expends a lot of effort in ensuring that the chances of this are minimal, they do happen nevertheless.

This can cause vital communications to be disrupted, the loss of important information and frustration for consumers who are interacting with the company's digital services. For these reasons and others, IT departments develop contingency plans that allow the system to immediately switch to an alternative one or provide alternative connections or auxiliary power. They might be able to handle all of these contingencies internally, or they may require external help. This could relate to setting up these plans and alternatives or rapid response to resolve any issues while the contingency measures keep everything running. Key responsibilities include:

  • setting up alternative networks to switch to if the main one goes down

  • installing emergency power and networking equipment

  • cooperating with industry experts to instal contingency measures

  • regularly testing and maintaining contingency measures and equipment

  • researching and acquiring new solutions for contingency planning

Related: What is IT Project Management? (With Salary)

Roles in the IT department

There are many different roles that you're going to find in an IT department. Some of the more common and important ones are as follows:

  • Hardware technician: These individuals repair and maintain a company's hardware, such as servers and computers. This can extend to installation, acquisition, security and computer systems maintenance.

  • Network engineer: A network engineer is responsible for designing and developing a company's networks. These individuals typically work closely with network administrators and managers.

  • Network administrator: Once a network engineer has developed a network, the network administrator monitors and maintains it for use.

  • IT project manager: These individuals are responsible for developing and implementing information technology projects that benefit a business. This typically includes everything from the budget to task allocation.

  • Cybersecurity architect: Often called security architects, these individuals design and develop a company's digital security systems. These security systems protect the company's data and other important information that's stored digitally.

Related:

  • 40 IT Interview Questions and Sample Answers

  • A guide to computer science vs information technology


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